Zacks Investment Research lowered shares of Williams Companies (NYSE:WMB) from a hold rating to a sell rating in a research report sent to investors on Saturday morning.

According to Zacks, “Concerned with Williams Companies’ high debt burden and regulatory setbacks suffered by its Constitution Pipeline project, we are downgrading our investment thesis from ‘Hold’ to ‘Sell’. WMB’s high leverage of over 71% restricts the financial flexibility of the firm to tap on growth opportunities. Further, Constitution Pipeline has been denied water permit by both New York DEC and FERC due to environmental reasons, crushing WMB's hopes to make the project operational till 2019. This has diluted the near-term earnings outlook. As it is, weaker- than-expected earnings in the last three quarters are likely to dampen investors’ confidence. The termination of the Energy Transfer deal has also been a big blow to the firm. We also need to factor the WMB’s low ROE and extensive exposure to natural gas, which translates into uncertain near-term outlook for the company. Hence we view WMB as a risky bet.”

A number of other research firms have also recently commented on WMB. Jefferies Group reissued a buy rating and issued a $37.00 target price on shares of Williams Companies in a report on Friday, January 12th. Royal Bank of Canada reaffirmed a buy rating and issued a $36.00 price objective on shares of Williams Companies in a research note on Monday, October 16th. Scotiabank reaffirmed a hold rating and issued a $36.00 price objective on shares of Williams Companies in a research note on Monday, January 29th. Morgan Stanley lowered their price objective on Williams Companies from $34.00 to $33.00 and set an overweight rating for the company in a research note on Friday, November 17th. Finally, Credit Suisse Group began coverage on Williams Companies in a research note on Thursday, January 4th. They issued an outperform rating and a $36.00 price objective for the company. One equities research analyst has rated the stock with a sell rating, three have assigned a hold rating, ten have given a buy rating and one has issued a strong buy rating to the company’s stock. Williams Companies has an average rating of Buy and a consensus target price of $35.20.

Williams Companies (NYSE:WMB) opened at $29.77 on Friday. The company has a market cap of $24,610.00, a PE ratio of 52.23, a PEG ratio of 2.40 and a beta of 1.32. The company has a quick ratio of 0.91, a current ratio of 0.97 and a debt-to-equity ratio of 1.38. Williams Companies has a fifty-two week low of $26.82 and a fifty-two week high of $33.67.

In other news, insider James E. Scheel sold 26,915 shares of the company’s stock in a transaction that occurred on Thursday, January 11th. The stock was sold at an average price of $33.00, for a total value of $888,195.00. The transaction was disclosed in a filing with the Securities & Exchange Commission, which is available at this link. Corporate insiders own 0.50% of the company’s stock.

Several institutional investors have recently added to or reduced their stakes in the company. Fuller & Thaler Asset Management Inc. acquired a new stake in Williams Companies during the 3rd quarter valued at approximately $105,000. SeaCrest Wealth Management LLC acquired a new stake in Williams Companies during the 4th quarter valued at approximately $117,000. Steward Partners Investment Advisory LLC acquired a new stake in Williams Companies during the 3rd quarter valued at approximately $172,000. Bronfman E.L. Rothschild L.P. increased its position in Williams Companies by 44.4% during the 3rd quarter. Bronfman E.L. Rothschild L.P. now owns 6,550 shares of the pipeline company’s stock valued at $197,000 after purchasing an additional 2,013 shares during the period. Finally, Eqis Capital Management Inc. acquired a new stake in Williams Companies during the 4th quarter valued at approximately $201,000. 84.56% of the stock is owned by institutional investors.

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About Williams Companies

The Williams Companies, Inc is an energy infrastructure company. The Company is focused on connecting North America’s hydrocarbon resource plays to markets for natural gas, natural gas liquids (NGL), and olefins. As of December 31, 2016, its interstate gas pipelines, midstream and olefins production interests were held through its investment in Williams Partners L.P.

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